HONG KONG—Hill & Knowlton’s crisis and issues management and training practice, a specialty service dedicated to helping companies and organizations plan and respond to crises, has launched Planning for Pandemics: A Step-by-Step Communications Approach for Responding Effectively to the Risks of Outbreaks.
Meanwhile, Edelman’s crisis practice, led by Mike Seymour in the U.K., has developed its own avian flu preparedness program.
The announcements come as a new survey shows that most U.S. companies haven’t planned for how to stay in business during a flu pandemic, when their workers may be too sick or scared to show up and their supply chains disappear, according to a new survey by a Deloitte & Touche unit headed by former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.
Two-thirds of the businesses surveyed said their companies were inadequately prepared to protect themselves in a pandemic; and 39 percent believed there wasn’t much they could do.
The new planning system at H&K takes learnings from the 2003 SARS crisis in Asia and helps companies better understand how pandemics such as avian flu can threaten their operations and reputations. The process includes risk assessment, planning communications strategies to mitigate the threat, and offers post-pandemic recovery strategies.
The World Health Organization is calling Avian Flu the next serious global pandemic. While the virus appears to be affecting primarily birds and only 120 people have contracted the virus, several health expects have expressed concern that human-to-human contact could cause the disease to spread more rapidly and with more harmful consequences.
“The spread of SARS in 2003 throughout Asia-Pacific caught governments and businesses completely by surprise despite the warning signs,” says Ray Rudowski, regional director of the crisis and issues management group at Hill & Knowlton Asia-Pacific. “With proper planning and effective communication, organizations can be better placed to manage the threat and recover faster from any potential crisis caused.”
Edelman’s avian flu response, meanwhile, helps clients address several key questions: How can businesses best prepare for an outbreak without simultaneously creating panic among stakeholders? What is the best course of action in the event of an H5N1 outbreak in a city where companies have an office or in a country where it has manufacturing facilities or key client or supplier relationships?
The firm’s corporate practice will take clients through a business and reputational risk audit, identifying pressure points and developing contingency plans. Based on that audit, Edelman will produce a series of H5N1 policies and procedures, key actions to be taken in the event of a local, regional or national outbreak, and a communications strategy that allows clients to reach out to all key stakeholders and advise them in advance of decisions that will be taken and steps identified.